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The Year of Finding Memory: A Memoir [Paperback]

Judy Fong Bates
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 29 2011
In the tradition of The Concubine's Children and Paper Shadows, a probing memoir from the author of the acclaimed novel Midnight at the Dragon Cafe.

An elegant and surprising book about a Chinese family's difficult arrival in Canada, and a daughter's search to understand remarkable and terrible truths about her parents' past lives.

Growing up in her father's hand laundry in small town Ontario, Judy Fong Bates listened to stories of her parents' past lives in China, a place far removed from their every-day life of poverty and misery. But in spite of the allure of these stories, Fong Bates longed to be a Canadian girl. Fifty years later she finally followed her curiosity back to her ancestral home in China for a reunion that spiralled into a series of unanticipated discoveries. Opening with a shock as moving as the one that powers The Glass Castle, The Year of Finding Memory explores a particular, yet universal, world of family secrets, love, loss, courage and shame. This is a memoir of a daughter's emotional journey, and her painful acceptance of conflicting truths. In telling the story of her parents, Fong Bates is telling the story of how she came to know them, of finding memory.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Description

Quill & Quire

In this new memoir, Judy Fong Bates returns to the lives of her parents, Chinese launderers in small-town Ontario, who also served as the inspiration for her novel, Midnight at the Dragon Café, and her collection of stories, China Dog. Here, she begins her investigation of her parents’ bitter relationship by asking a simple question: Can children ever really know their parents?

For Bates, the answer, at first, is no. Her knowledge of her father is limited to the bare facts of his life: his escape from extreme poverty and arrival in Canada in 1914, where he was forced to pay the infamous head tax and came to so despise his lowly existence that he finally hanged himself in a row house in Toronto’s Chinatown.

But her understanding of her parents’ lives is turned upside down when her elder half-sister suggests a family trip to China. Bates and her husband travel to a rural part of China where they are greeted by villagers who still remember her father’s generosity and his special status as the returning guest from far-off Gold Mountain.

Bates is even more surprised by what she discovers about her mother. A daughter from a respectable family, her first marriage was to an opium-addicted “no-good man.” She survived the Japanese invasion of China, fleeing Nanking with a two-year-old in tow, and subsequent Communist takeover. Her marriage to the widower from Gold Mountain, who had hired her more than a decade earlier to teach school in his village, was not an act of practicality, but the result of a far more interesting secret.

This is a beautiful, heart-wrenching memoir. Bates shifts masterfully between various times and places, from her mother’s arrival in Vancouver by propeller plane in 1955 to her family’s return to China more than 50 years later. She confronts her own prejudices, finally realizing that the years she spent with her unhappy parents were in fact a gift from two people who had suffered greatly.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

NATIONAL BESTSELLER
A Globe and Mail Best Book


"Brilliant, affecting. . . . This is one of those rare memoirs where the reader never wants the book to end."
--The Globe and Mail

"Stunning. . . . It's an achingly beautiful book with one of the finest, most grabbing openings in recent memory."
--The Vancouver Sun

"An elegant and honest portrayal. . . . Written with simple, heartfelt prose, this memoir is packed with shocking revelations, truths, losses, shame, discrimination and ultimately love."
--The Record

"A beautiful, heart-wrenching memoir."
--Quill and Quire

“With the elegant brush strokes of a miniaturist, Judy Fong Bates constructs, out of the debris of her family’s past, a poignant understanding of both her own ancestry and the passage we must all take to comprehend ourselves. The Year of Finding Memory is an engrossing account of that journey, which seeks, in the end, happiness and peace.”
— Shyam Selvadurai, author of Funny Boy
 
“With admirable heart, Judy Fong Bates portrays the ever-present desire to make sense of our origins. She conjures unforgettable images of a childhood on two continents, and of two unhappy parents, who, even after the last page, we long to know, if only fleetingly, found love between them.” 
— Denise Chong, author of The Concubine’s Children
 
“The most accurate and heartfelt account that I’ve ever read of what it’s like to explore the Chinese countryside in search of your roots. Judy Fong Bates captures the beauty of the villages, the sense of returning home to a place you’ve never been, the heartache, joy, understanding and longing, and that very real there-but-for-the-grace-of-God emotion that you experience in meeting your relatives who were left behind. Beautiful!”
— Lisa See, author of Shanghai Girls and Peony in Love




From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Judy Fong Bates is one of the best April 19 2012
By Schick
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I read one of her books and couldn't wait to get everything else she has written. They are all excellent and I would recommend them to anyone. The Year of Finding Memory: A Memoir
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written Memoir!! June 5 2010
By Louise Jolly TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This was a beautifully written memoir. I was sure it was going to be good as I'd also read Judy Fong Bates' first book titled: "Midnight at the Dragon Cafe".

In this memoir, Judy and her husband Michael travel to China where Judy wants to re-discover her Chinese roots and visit old family members. Upon her arrival there, she is surprised to meet relatives she never knew she had.

As a youngster she had come to Canada with her Mother and Father and sat in a small, cramped one-man laundry all day. Her father worked extremely long hours in the laundry he began in Acton, Ontario and had no time for a social life or time to play with Judy. Her mother and father fought constantly making her wonder why they ever married in the first place.

Part of her return back to China was to try and discover why her parents married and what exactly made them so unhappy. I don't want to spoil the story so I'll let you discover the rest on your own.

I hope she is planning on writing another book, her writing is absolutely beautiful!!
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent memoir Dec 6 2012
By Kathy Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Judy Fong Bates shares her experience growing up Canadian as the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Like most kids, she has little understanding of her parents' lives until as an adult she starts to uncover some facts about their history. Well written and insightful.
4.0 out of 5 stars Fong Family April 27 2013
By Chinnup - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the second book I read by Judy Fong Bates. This one was more factual. My wife's family are Fong's and from Hoi Ping so I thought there may be a connection, but Judy's family was from an area south of my wife's family.
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written Memoir! June 5 2010
By Louise Jolly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
This was a beautifully written memoir. I was sure it was going to be good as I'd also read Judy Fong Bates' first book titled: "Midnight at the Dragon Cafe".

In this memoir, Judy and her husband Michael travel to China where Judy wants to re-discover her Chinese roots and visit old family members. Upon her arrival there, she is surprised to meet relatives she never knew she had.

As a youngster she had come to Canada with her Mother and Father and sat in a small, cramped one-man laundry all day. Her father worked extremely long hours in the laundry he began in Acton, Ontario and had no time for a social life or time to play with Judy. Her mother and father fought constantly making her wonder why they ever married in the first place.

Part of her return back to China was to try and discover why her parents married and what exactly made them so unhappy. I don't want to spoil the story so I'll let you discover the rest on your own.

I hope she is planning on writing another book, her writing is beautiful!!
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